Palo Duro Trail Run Race Recap

On October 20, 2018, I ran the new PDTR 50 mile course. This is the first year to incorporate some new trails and they did not disappoint. I ran the 50K in 2016 so I knew that the new trails were going to add a new level of difficulty. For my first 50 mile run, I wanted to stay local because I know so many of the volunteers and other runners. It was so helpful to be hugged and encouraged by so many friends who knew the doubts I had before the race.

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The old course for the 50 mile race repeated figure 8 loops 5 times. The new course is 3 25K loops plus an added on section to the first loop to make 50 miles. Our area had much needed rain in the two weeks leading up to the race and many of the trails flooded. It took a lot of man power and volunteers to clean up debris, repair bridges and get water off the trails. Hat’s off to the Race Directors for getting it done!! There was too much water in the lower section of the 50 mile add on loop they had to change the course for us. We repeated the small section and looped back to the start/finish and then did the 25K loop 3 times. A little more challenging as far as technicality goes, but you need to be flexible when you run ultras.

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Race day the weather was predicted to start in the low 40’s and have a high of around 70 degrees which was pretty much what it was – just about perfect weather!! Not too cold and it certainly did not get as hot as the last few years, thank God! The 50 milers had a 15 minute head start because of the course change. We were going to start with the 50K, but since we were making a little loop back to the start finish, they needed us to be through there before the 25K started.

There were 27 50 milers. I placed myself near the back and the runners started to separate quickly on the single track. I was with a group of 6 other runners and we chatted and found out this was the first 50 mile race for all of us. Being very dark, we helped each other out by calling out “water” or “flag” so we knew what was ahead. As we neared the spot where we turned to go back to the start/finish a few people had taken a wrong turn. I knew right where we were, so I led us back to the start/finish so we could begin our first of three 25K loops. It was fun to run back through because all the 25K runners were ready for their start so we had 400+ people cheering for us! I didn’t need my headlight anymore, so I took it off and got my hat out of my drop bag, slathered on some sunscreen and took off.

Soon the fast 25K runners caught up to me and I saw some friends that were running it. I took my time, got some high fives at the first aid station and started the climb of Comanche Trail. I had run this trail a few times in my training and new I would be power hiking (aka walking) parts of it. The sun started to come out and I stopped to take a few pictures. Palo Duro Canyon is such a beautiful place! I realized I didn’t grab my sunglasses and would have to wait another 10 miles before I hit my drop bag again, but at least I had my hat.

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I was fueling with Honey Stinger gels and Untapped Coffee Maple Syrup, Coke at aid stations and just the water in my hydration pack. We had a slight breeze in the morning so it didn’t feel too hot as the sun heated up the canyon. I made it back to the start/finish right at 4 hours, which is where I thought I would be, grabbed my sunglasses, repacked my vest with more gels and had some boiled salted potatoes at the aid station and took off for lap #2. I settled in with 3 other runners for the climb of Comanche again and we all talked about the course, running back ground, where we lived, family, etc. Funny how easy it is to talk to strangers when you are all running! I love that part of it. I figured the second loop would be the hardest mentally, because the third loop would just be all heart, plus I knew my son was going to pace me for part of the last loop.

I ran into more friends at the aid station and we hugged and chatted some, but I knew I needed to keep going, as I was slowing down a bit more than I wanted. I ran the back half of the 2nd loop better and made it back into the aid station close to where I wanted to be. My family was waiting for me and that was awesome!! By now I was really feeling the effects of 35 miles and my knee was getting very cranky. My stomach was a little queasy, but my coach had told me when that happens you aren’t eating enough. So I sucked down another gel even though I didn’t want to. I hobbled out of there with my son Aaron and we did fine until that final Comanche climb! I walked way more than I wanted to. Aaron was helpful in taking my mind off the run and the pain. We got to Rock Garden aid station and my husband was going to run 3 miles with me to Capitol Peak aid station. I was not feeling great and was getting worried about the time cutoff. I knew if I kept slowing down I wouldn’t make the 12 1/2 hour time limit so I would take a deep breath and run. Derreck decided to run the 3 mile Capital Peak Trail with me, since I was going so slow and needed that push. Thanks to another 50 mile runner, I took an aspirin and wow, when that kicked in I could run again, really run! I couldn’t believe the difference it made and now I know to pack that too!! Aaron met me at Lighthouse aid station and was going to run the last 3.5 miles in. Now I was actually running, plus this is a really runnable section, and he pushed me down to my fastest miles! HA! I felt great!!

I saw the finish line flags and was so happy! The crowd had dwindled way down by now so there were not too many people there to cheer, but it didn’t matter -my family was there! My boss (co-race director) also gave me a big hug and that meant so much to me. I really look up to her as a runner. It’s still kind of surreal that I completed 50 miles. I am so thrilled that my body held up, I did not go into a lupus flare afterwards, and yes, I was sore for 2-3 days, but after that I felt great. I finally stopped eating so much! I was very hungry for several days afterwards. I am looking forward to the next big running adventure!

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Stats:

27 started, 12 were women and only 7 women finished. I was 4th female in a time of 11:38:44. Top female finished in 9:32:14!! Top male finished in 7:50:38!! Amazing.

I ran in Hoka Torrent shoes, wore Injinji socks with Zensah socks over, and used Nathan Vapor Airess hydration pack. I had 2 small blisters in my normal spot on my feet and no chaffing or any other problems.

My training plan and coach: Stephanie Howe Violett and the Train Like A Mother Club from Another Mother Runner. The program was amazing, the plan was perfect for me, the encouragement and advice from the others in the program was awesome. Highly recommend this group for your first Ultra.

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50 Miles?!?! But First…

A year ago I had planned to run the Palo Duro Trail Run 50K Race but my mom had some serious complications from heart surgery. I skipped the race and flew to PA to be with her and my dad. She had a tough road ahead of her but she is much tougher than she thinks. I’d like to think that I get my strength and toughness from her, but we both really know that we are just plain stubborn. One thing about my mom, she is who she is. There is no pretending, no sugar coating, no beating around the bush. I used to be a little embarrassed sometimes, but now I embrace it and am glad when people say I take after her. When you are confident in who you are, your values and world view, you can truly be just you. I love that mom has shown me how to just be me without excuses or apologies. I am not intimidated by people or challenges, I just take a deep breath and press on.

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The best thing I got from my mom is her example of her faith in Jesus Christ. She lived out Deuteronomy 6:4-9 for me as a child and continues to do so.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

No parent is perfect, but seeing my parents now, how far they have come, how God has changed them and transformed their marriage is a miracle. All glory to God!

All Glory to God for giving me my parents and family, our struggles, our growth, our character, talents and gifts. Depression and autoimmune diseases do not define me. All of these things are known by God and He is not surprised by anything. I can have confidence in Him!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

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In my last blog post I shared how scared I was and really unsure if I could complete the 50 mile distance in the time allowed. There was a point at mile 42 where I wasn’t sure if I could, but my family came aside me and ran with me for a few of the last miles to keep me moving. My son and my husband were a tremendous help in keeping my mind off how much I hurt. Aaron made me laugh and Derreck told me he loved me but I had to keep moving. I was tired, but I never even thought about quitting.

At the last aid station I had 3.5 miles left to go. The volunteers at all of the aid stations were so encouraging and helpful. The best part of running a local race is knowing so many of the volunteers! They greet you by name and give you a hug and save you potatoes with salt because they know that’s what you like! Thank you to every single person who spent their day in the Canyon to help runners meet their crazy goals. And a huge thank you to my boss who is so inspiring and gave me wonderful yet simple advice, “Just don’t stop.”

Palo Duro Trail Run does not disappoint. It is a challenging, yet runnable course in a beautiful setting. The race directors work tirelessly to ensure a great race for every runner and make each person feel like a winner.

 

Run with Endurance

As of today, I will be attempting to run 50 miles at the Palo Duro Trail Run in 10 days. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind. But I am also excited to test the limits of my endurance. I have been increasing miles and pace over the last 6 years because it’s fun to see what I can do, it makes me happier, it makes me feel better mentally and I simply love running. In 2009 when training for my first 5K in years, I wanted to make 30 minutes. I didn’t, but that is what spurred me on to really run. The following year I knocked over 5 minutes off and ran it in 27 something. My PR is 24 something that I got 2 years ago at a turkey trot! In my first half, I wanted to break 2 hours. I trained on my own and did it! With 30 seconds to spare. In my second one, a year later, I hit 1:52, quite a difference! In my first marathon, I was shooting for 4 hours. Considering I was sick with the flu for 3 weeks prior to my race, and I did make some rookie mistakes (starting too fast, maybe?!?!) I ran it in 4:15. My second one, less than a year later I wanted to qualify for Boston. In 2016, I did, running 3:53 something! When I set my mind to run a certain distance or time, I am pretty determined and have been able to achieve my goals. When wanted to run a 50K, I thought, yes, this is harder and longer, but I can do it. I trained and have since run 3 50K’s. Everything I have challenged myself with so far, though hard and I worked for it, I knew I was capable. So here I am, 10 days out from 50 miles and this is the first time in my running that I am unsure of the outcome. I truly do not know if I can complete this distance a) at all, and b) in the 12 hours and 30 minutes allowed time. On paper I can. But this is so much further than anything I have attempted to run, so far away from any previous time on my feet that I really don’t know.

My Bible study this week has been on suffering. How appropriate, as ultra runs are often fondly called “sufferfests” among other things. The Bible has a lot to say on suffering. Most often, God does not take suffering away, but promises to be with us in it. I will definitely be holding onto this thought as I know I will be suffering. Why willingly put myself through the physical pain of running? Training and running long distances correlates to my walk of faith. …Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. I pray I will see God beside me when I am weary. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. Vaneetha Rendall Risner said in a Desiring God article “Suffering has a unique way of putting me in God’s presence, beholding his glory, because I am constantly crying out to him.”

I know non-runners do not understand this and question me. I also don’t understand at times either. But I do know that running connects me with God. There is something about the rhythmic movement of running, of feeling the breath in my lungs, and being outside that puts me in God’s presence like nothing else does. It might be its simplicity, or that there aren’t other distractions.

I am imagining myself at the start line. It’s dark, there is a buzz in the cold air. I see my breath. Headlamps are shining, people are laughing nervously. I smell someone’s coffee. I smile, praise God that I am here, wait for the bagpipes to play. It’s time! I take off, at a slow jog, it is a 50 mile race after all. I see the trail of headlamps ahead of me, adjust my pack and settle into my pace. I see myself as the sun starts to peak over the canyon walls and smile, that’s God winking at me. I run on and eat a little fruit at an aid station and take my gel, Untapped Coffee Maple Syrup and am thankful such a thing exists. Before I know it, I have completed loop 1, 20 miles. I see my husband and he refills my pack and takes care of anything I might need. He sends me off with a kiss and…

Tune in to the race recap in a couple of weeks!

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Faith Over Fear

Why would anyone run that far?

I don’t even like driving that far!

Aren’t you worried you’ll ruin your knees?

No, other people aren’t saying this to me, I am thinking it myself. I am in the middle of training for my first 50 mile trail race. It is daunting at best and absolutely terrifying at worst.

I am extremely fortunate that all medication is working fairly well; lupus and Hashimoto’s are well managed except for the sun sensitivity that I now experience. I am in a very healthy place for me right now and am so grateful that I even get to train at all. No, it’s not what I used to be able to do, and it is so much harder than it used to be. I let fear and doubt take over because I overlooked how far I have come since my diagnosis. My training runs had been miserable, mostly because of my bad attitude. ‘Why try this at all? I probably will DNF anyway, imagining that I won’t make the time cutoff.’ and other negative self talk polluted my thoughts.

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Feeling defeated.

My family took a little weekend away to the Taos Ski Valley and hiked up Wheeler Peak. That was not only a perspective and altitude change, but a mental change as well. No running. Just hiking with the family, climbing about 3000 feet in elevation to the peak at 13,160′ and enjoying the views! It was physically so hard because of the elevation and steep grade, but when we all reached the top, it was such a relief and sense of accomplishment. I thought, if we can do this, I can do the 50 mile race.

My latest 16 mile run was done on the trails on the day after a 10 mile run which was on the day after a 13 mile run. Tired legs. Good gage of how the race might go. I felt better than I have felt in a long time. My pace was slow, but hey, it is what it is. (I need to let that go.) I kept a good attitude and knew I could continue on. This run gave me some confidence back. I can’t help but think that when God prompted a person to scratch something in the dirt, He knew I was going to see it and I know it was a reminder for me.

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Amen.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

I need to keep the faith. Trust my training. This goes not only for my race plan but my life plan. I need to remember that whatever I am facing, faith is stronger than fear. Faith will overcome fear! Fear can paralyze you, faith can set you free. By trusting in Jesus I can rest assured that no matter what, He’s got me. So I can rise up to challenges with a strength and resolve from above. And if I do end up with a DNF, it won’t be because of fear.

 

 

My Story with Depression

This blog post has been rolling around in my head for some time now. In light of the recent celebrity suicides, I think it’s time I write it. My own family doesn’t even know much of what I am about to say, so this is extremely hard and I am going to make myself extremely vulnerable here. I know that depression still has a stigma, and an even greater one within the church. I remember as a child hearing that suicide was an unforgivable sin because once you did it, you couldn’t ask for forgiveness. What a thought to go through a young persons head, but even at age 8, I could understand why someone would take their own life. It did scare me though that you wouldn’t go to heaven if you did kill yourself.

My childhood was probably pretty typical for someone growing up in the 70’s- early 80’s. Parents fought a lot, one drank a lot, nobody really talked about stuff like alcoholism, depression, abuse. Nowadays, there are support groups for everything if you are willing to go. It wasn’t always like that. These were the “skeletons in the closet” that you hid from the rest of the world. Then one day my mom was Born Again (the phrase that was used back then). God certainly had set a plan in motion way back before I was born. My parents both came from Catholic families. Around the time I was in kindergarten is when my mom truly found Jesus. He began a work in her that started a chain reaction in our family. She brought us kids to church and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 6. Yes, that is very young for someone to grasp all that He is, but I knew I was being called to Him. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Though a child’s faith then (isn’t that what we are supposed to have anyway?), I have definitely grown into it over my many years.

I first had manic/depressive episodes in high school. I would be so full of energy and giggles and elation, it was the most wonderful feeling in the world! Then the crashes would come, an oppressive dark cloud suffocated me. I cut my wrists. Superficially. But I was crying out for help when I didn’t know how to ask. Several months of this cycle went by and I finally told my mom because it was getting worse and I didn’t know how to make the bad thoughts go away. My mental problems were hush hush in my family except with my mom. She at least had the good sense to get me help. We went to several therapist and doctors until we found someone I was comfortable with. Thank you mom, for doing this. It saved me. And thank you Georganne, you helped me know that it is ok to get help.

As a teen and college student, keeping up with therapy and medication was not what I wanted to do. The medication took away all my manic episodes and I missed them; for they so wonderfully took away all stress, pain, and worry. I didn’t want to “talk” about my feelings. That was so dumb and a waste of time for a person in the prime of their life. So, I quit it all. Then depression came back. Then I started drinking to numb myself. Then I passed out while driving. God protected me through all that. I started taking my faith more seriously again. I was still a confused young adult trying to find my way through a move across the country (running away). It was here that God finally broke me. But it was the most blessed breaking ever and I was washed clean and forgiven years worth of self loathing and destruction in one prayer. A million steps away from God, one step back. Hallelujah. The weight was lifted off and I could breathe again!

I met and married my husband, and all was well until after my first baby was born. Postpartum depression attacked my brain and I saw images in my head that no mother should see. I knew I needed to get help again. I was put on an anti-depressant right away and thank God it worked. Fast forward baby number two and we were proactive in starting a safe anti-depressant right after she was born. I was able to take myself off it after a year and I was fine. Fast forward again and depression came back with a vengeance.

It was different this time. It was mind and body numbing, an emptiness, a nothingness. I felt as though under water. Words weren’t understandable. I felt paralyzed. Medication only took the edge off. We attended a wonderful church at the time and I was able to receive biblical counseling. This was not a “let’s talk about your feelings” this was let’s dig in God’s word, and see what is real and what is not, as depression is a big fat lie. Your brain is messed up and you think your emotions are fact, but they are not! The book Depression, A Stubborn Darkness was absolutely imperative in my healing as a depressed Christian. I struggled so much with negativity. During this time my family had a job change and a move. I had to move from my friends, my church, my support. I did not want to move. It was no secret I did not like where we moved. But I was fresh off great counseling, somewhat stable emotionally, and prayed up. For 6 solid years I was clinically depressed and fought and wrestled with God. I prayed and begged for Him to take this thorn from me. His answer, “my grace is sufficient.” And that is how I lived for 6 years; resigned to live with underlying depression, bitterness, resentment. I had read books on God taking away depression and knew it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I accepted it. My medication was enough to keep me from being suicidal again, but I could not find any joy in life. I struggled to reconcile this as a Christian, who’s outward sign was supposed to be JOY. I had none. No inner smile. Just nothing.

I started to run again because I had gained weight. That story is here. It was a struggle to run. It was not easy, but I kept at it. After about a year, I realized it was changing me. Little by little I was seeing a difference. I was reading the book One Thousand Gifts and started to notice little things, like the way the sun hit the wildflowers, the way the wind moved the leaves, things like that. Directing my thoughts and finding thankfulness to God was healing me. Along with medication and running. It was the perfect trifecta! The cure! When one of these three things is neglected, I revert back to depression. It is hard to be on constant vigilance. Sometimes you just want to go on auto-pilot. With depression, I can’t. With autoimmune diseases, I can’t. Sometimes I am just TIRED. But when I ignore a key player in my mental and physical health, I am out much longer than what’s good for me, for my family.

I never ever thought that I would be free of depression – and I guess truly, I am not. But, God has changed me from a hopeless and bitter person to one of hope and joy. God was with me all along in the darkness – when I suffered insomnia and would walk alone during the middle of the night, when I drank myself into oblivion, when I cut myself, when I cried until I could cry no more, and when I smiled that first smile after seeing Him light up the sky in brilliant colors just for me! He changed me. He has made me whole. He has made me see my worth. He has made me see His infinite worth, He allowed me to see a tiny glimpse of His glory and it is a sign of what’s to come.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

There is hope in this world and it’s Jesus. During my imprisonment of the last big bout of depression, I never thought I would be free. Like Paul singing in a jail cell, I thought that is what I would have to do. Except I wasn’t good at it. I had moments, but mostly I just complained. Sure, I prayed as Jesus did – take this cup from me, not my will, but yours… And just knew I would have to be okay with living “below the line.” (Dad, you know what I am talking about.) God really did set me free. It’s unbelievable when I really think about it. So I need to stop and think about it more and be in awe of God. Not to be bitter when He doesn’t take away pain or illness, but to trust Him in the process. He is the answer. Not that I ever want to go back into that kind of depression again, He allowed me to grow during that time, so yes, I am and can be thankful for it. For in my tears were some of the sweetest moments with God, the closest I have ever been to Him. Even though he didn’t take away the pain, he suffered right along with me. In my weakness, I was strong – in Him.

I think that is why running is so important to me. It is raw and brings you to the end of yourself. For me, it parallels the fight with depression. I can overcome, I am stronger than I thought, I will press on towards the goal, I will not grow weary in doing good, I will fight the good fight, I will run with endurance, I will run and not grow weary, I will forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will run in such a way as to win the prize, I will not be afraid, I will hope in the Lord, for I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength.

 

If you are battling depression, I highly recommend this 3 part series from Desert Springs Church. It can be found here. This was turning point for me. 

The Wolf and the Butterfly

May is Lupus Awareness Month. I was diagnosised on August 1, 2017 with Lupus. It was a very long road and so many tests to finally get an answer to what was wrong with me that it was a welcome answer; someone confirmed that indeed, something was very wrong with me and it wasn’t all in my head and I wasn’t just lazy.

Lupus is Latin for Wolf. The first mention of lupus in history dates back to the 13th century physician Rogerius describing a rash on a face as similar to a wolf bite. Lupus can be contained to the skin in rashes and lesions, called Discoid Lupus. Lupus also is often manafested with a “Butterfly” or Malar Rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, thus associated with a butterfly. By 1904 Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) was firmly established. SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks different parts of the body. It is unpredictable and misunderstood, often called “the great immitator.” No two cases of lupus are alike. Common symptoms include joint pain, skin rashes, debilitating fatigue, brain fog, low fevers and inflamation. Most people with lupus don’t look sick. Lupus can affect any organ or tissue, from skin, to joints, to heart or kidneys. Because the cause is unknown and there is no single blood test to diagnose more than half of the people with lupus have suffered at least four years and saw three or more doctors. There is no cure.

I have had Hashimoto’s Thyroidistis since 2009 (though I suspect I have had it much longer). This autoimmune disease attacks the thyroid. The symptoms include major fatigue, hair loss, and weight gain. Keeping my thyroid monitored and adjusting thyroid medicine as needed became part of my life. For a few years it was well controlled and I lived a very normal active life. Suddenly, in 2013, the fatigue came back with a vengance. I had extra thyroid tests done, including ultrasound on my thyroid. There were a few small nodules, but nothing significant. My labs showed my medication was the correct dose, yet I was not well. After insisting on being tested for Mono, that test came back positve for reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus. My doctor was surprised but she gave me a prescription for an anti-viral medication and sublingual B12 to see if it made any difference. It did not. She said I would have to wait it out. At this point I had started running as a stress reducer and to try to lose some weight. It was very slow going, but it was helping. I guess the EBV went away or became dormant and I was feeling much better again. I started training for a 10K, then a half marathon, and finally a marathon. I even got a BQ on my second marathon! I was doing great.

We moved to Amarillo, TX in December, 2015 and I ran my first trail half marathon in Palo Duro Canyon in May, 2016. I was smitten by trail running. I ran the Palo Duro Trail Run 50K in October, placing 3rd female overall. I quickly looked for my next 50K and chose Monument Valley 50K in March 2017. It was everything I could have wanted in a trail run (except maybe for all that sand…) I felt overly tired after this race, but attributed it to needing more recovery after my race. I also had a strange rash on my face. After a month of overwelming fatigue I knew it was time to head back to the doctor. I can’t explain this fatigue – I was sleeping well, and long hours, yet I required a nap every day. I had a very hard time focusing on anything! let alone work or the kids or my poor husband. My PCP had labs done and sent me for a sleep study. All of that was normal. I saw my endocrinologist to check on my thyroid. He did all the tests plus another ultrasound and everything looked normal. When everything comes back “normal” but you don’t feel normal, you wonder if it really is all in your head. When I initially saw him, I had a positive ANA in my lab work which indicated another autoimmune disease so he referred me to a rheumatologist. August 1, 2017 I met my current doctor, and though he gave me some bad news, I wanted to give him a hug! I started on the standard treatment, Plaquinel, which is an anti-malarial drug. When I went back in for a check up 4 months later, I was a changed person. My hands didn’t hurt anymore, I could squeeze out a sponge and wash dishes without any trouble, I could think clearer, I didn’t need a nap every single day, and I could run. Running has been such a huge part of my treatment for depression. I walk a fine line between running enough to stave off depression, but not too much as to stress my body and throw myself into a lupus flare.

Not quite a year of treatment, I have come back to running. I was able to run my 3rd 50K last month and though it was much slower than my first, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so grateful to be running again! I still have pain but most of the time it is managable. The fatigue is still my worst symptom, and try to rest or sleep when I can.

The hardest part of lupus to me is the guilt. There are so many things I need to do or would like to do but I chose rest more often than not. Most of my decisions are based on staying home and low key whenever possible. Except for running. If I can go for a 10 mile run, why can’t I do the laundry? go to the grocery store? work full time? meet a friend? I feel selfish. My excuse – I need to run for my sanity. And honestly, the more I run (to a point), the better I feel. The slow repetative movement of running releases those wonderful endorphins, which actually do reduce the perception of pain, as well as making me feel better mentally. After a run, I do have more energy for a few hours at work or a couple of errands. But that’s it. I am depleted rapidly. I hate that my mind wants to go and do but my body says no.

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I don’t know why I have these diseases. I am human and I do despair sometimes. I feel sorry for myself. I cry in frustration and pain and fatigue. But I do know I can trust God and all of his promises are true. He never promised a pain free, illness free, trouble free life. God gave us Jesus. And with Jesus I can have it all! He came that I might have life, the abundant life as John 10:10 says. I keep going back to my faith, because with it, I have hope.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5

My struggles can bring me joy if I allow them to point me to God and to become more like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) I relate my spiritual walk with my running life. I want to develop endurance – for it helps me to push beyond what I thought possible, in miles and in this illness. I want to develop character – maturity and strength of character, so that I am not bitter or lead a life of complaining. I need hope! Hope gives me confidence that I can finish the race and hope in the future because it will not disappoint.

For Lupus Awareness Month, Tonia Smith has made a video she gave me permission to share here:

 

I’m also linking the lyrics by Lecrae, because they really address my thoughts! Read them here.

Cedro Peak Ultra Recap

In January 2018, my plan was to run Cedro Peak 50K on April 21. My health was somewhat stable and I really wanted to get on with running and goal setting! I had a year of dealing with, treating and understanding the diagnosis of Lupus last April. I also had the emergency trip in October to Pennsylvania to be with my parents when mom had complications from heart surgery. And then I got sick, very sick in November. End already, 2017! I made my training plan, stuck it on the fridge and started January 1. A month into my training, I was feeling stronger than I had felt in a year. It was so nice to be without debilitating fatigue and pain, to think clearly and sleep well.

We had some unexpected bad news (isn’t all bad news unexpected?) mid February. It really threw our family into crisis mode and we prayed like we had never prayed before. My faith was tested. I had to decide to trust God or not. I wavered between peace that He gave me and anxiety that I gave myself. Trusting God in the unknown is what I profess, could I do it when the stakes were high? I did my best to stick to my training plan but there were days I just couldn’t run. Mentally, my mind was so overcome with sadness and fear; physically, my body was attacking itself and my pain was high. After a month we felt like we could relax a little with our situation, though it is not over. God has been so good to my family during this time. We have been so blessed by friends and family praying for us and He has grown all of our faith.

My training was sub-par for this race with only one 20 mile training run and very few back to back runs. I only averaged about 30 miles a week for all of March. I was determined to still run Cedro Peak and just give it my best.

Derreck and I drove to Tijeras on Friday, picked up my race packet, and spent the night at a friend’s house only a few miles from the start. Imagine my surprise when we woke up to snow! A quick look at the weather and I made the correct decision to wear capris instead of the skirt I had planned to wear. I knew the start would be cold, but I had anticipated it to warm up quickly. It did not!

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There were about 100 people running the 50K and about 40 marathoners that started together at 7am. It was very quiet and surreal running through the blanket of snow that covered everything. I settled into my pace and passed the first aid station about a mile in, which we would see again in about 4.5 miles on this loop. The terrain is very different from where I live so the rocks and tree roots were something I had to quickly adapt to. I checked into the aid station, grabed a slice of apple and went on my way.

The next section was very runnable and so much fun. Somewhere around 7 miles in I found myself alone and a little panic set in that I had taken a wrong turn. The course was well marked and I kept seeing the flags, but runner’s brain doesn’t always function well. I soon came to the Juan Tomas aid station. I was feeling a little winded, but very good overall. I had a little Coke and an orange slice and kept going. The next aid station I would see Derreck. That stretch seemed to take a very long time as we were slowly climbing in elevation. I slowed significantly. I finally reached Derreck, grabbed some of my banana bread and some more salt tablets. This started the BIG climb to Cedro Peak. I walked this section and got a kiss from one of the Search and Rescue dogs at the top. The views were gorgeous.

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We ran down the big hill we just climbed and the marathon separated from the 50K here. I did not study the course map much because I knew it wouldn’t matter or make much sense to me and planned to just run what I could. I completely underestimated how much the elevation would affect me. After mile 18, we climbed steadily until mile 23 topping out around 7700 feet. I pretty much walked all of miles 20-22, most of 23 and 24. I really wanted to run. My legs felt great but I could not catch my breath. Living and training at 3300 feet in elevation is not the same as over 7000 feet!

I never thought about quitting and knew I would finish so I just took in the beauty and took plenty of pictures and ate my gels and banana bread. I also drank ginger ale, ate some chips and ate a very delicious chocolate caramel sea salt truffle at the aid stations. Finally I reached the spot that I knew I would start decending down and looked forward to running again. I had my fastest mile split at mile 28 in a 9:21 and felt great about that. I ran as much as I could the rest of the race but ended up walking many of the hills because I was just plain tired by then. Knowing that 50K’s never quite match up to 31.07 miles I wondered how much farther it would be after my Garmin ticked past that point. When I hit Ponderosa aid station the last time, they said one mile left, which for me ended up being 32.47 miles. I ran what I felt like was fast for that last mile and finished 50K #3 in 7:11:52! They told me I got 3rd in my age group and I got a cool coin for 3rd place! It was a beautiful day and a wonderful race with excellent volunteers and aid stations. I would recommend this race to anyone, but I won’t be doing it again unless I can make some trips to Albuquerque for training at elevation. I feel really good about this accomplishment and am excited to start my new training plan for Palo Duro Trail Run 50 miler in October!

 

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Fun stats: Results posted on Ultra Signup show I was 56th out of 92 finishers, 12th out of 29 females and actually 2nd in my age group! Overall winner was Rob Krar in 4:07:17!